UK crisis of trust: BBC is just the tip of the iceberg


A news item in today’s Telegraph says that a survey by Kantar shows that 79 percent of the British public don’t trust senior BBC managers to tell the truth.

This, of course, relates to the serious and still-unfolding crises confronting the broadcaster as investigations into allegations of child sex abuse over past decades vie for media and everyone’s attention alongside the consequential resignation of its Director-General, increasing questioning of BBC leadership capability and organization structure, and its very future as an independent public service broadcaster.

The Telegraph’s news snippet took me to the website of Kantar Media, the UK-headquartered market research firm and WPP subsidiary, and Crisis of Trust, the survey in question.

They’ve published some eye-opening metrics from their survey (which doesn’t say when or where it was conducted nor how many people participated).


In the bar chart above, the dominant light purple colour indicates ‘do not trust,’ with the darker purple colour indicating ‘do trust.’

The glaring one actually isn’t the huge lack of belief in senior BBC managers telling the truth (a figure that’s 76 percent according to Kantar, not the 79 percent the Telegraph says).

Nor is it the 91 percent of people who say they don’t trust tabloid journalists (no surprise!), nor that 65 percent or so don’t trust broadsheet journalists; nor even that under 60 percent don’t trust TV news journalists either – all a damning indictment of the profession of journalism in the UK.

Neither is it the equally-unsurprising lack of trust in large-company bosses – more than 80 percent said that, according to Kantar. Such lack of trust has been low for years and not only in the UK (just ask Edelman).

To me, the most disturbing aspect of this research is such low trust in key institutions like Parliament, the police and the judiciary. This, says Kantar, could change our social and political landscape for good.

[…] Trust is so low that Britain risks becoming more like Greece or Italy, where the majority of institutions are distrusted by the majority of people. This could lead to critically reduced political engagement, especially in young people, and even foment minor acts of rebellion, such as the refusal to pay the BBC licence fee.

Kantar’s research shows that faith in our politicians has plummeted: only three in 10 people trust their local MP to tell the truth (28 per cent), while fewer than one in five trust government ministers (16 per cent) or MPs in general (15 per cent).

[…] Senior police officers, once a bastion of respect, are now held in such low regard that only half the population (50 per cent) trust them to tell the truth.

Of all the institutions included in the report, judges were the most trusted but still just 68 per cent of people believed they did not lie.

Maybe the lack of trust in politicians and perhaps senior police officers could be an influencing factor in why there was such a low voter turn out for Thursday’s polling to elect police commissioners.

Kantar’s conclusion:

[…] If this crisis of trust is not stopped in its tracks, we will enter a situation where young people are increasingly unwilling to contribute to or co-operate with the government, leading to a stagnation and even reversal of our country’s development.

Food for some serious thought for all of us.

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